Anna Freud

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Anna Freud (December 3, 1895 - October 9, 1982) was the sixth and last child of Sigmund and Martha Freud. Born in Vienna, she followed the path of her father and contributed to the newly born field of psychoanalysis.

anna freud

Viennese-born British psychoanalyst, youngest daughter of Sigmund Freud and founder, in 1947, of the Hampstead Child Therapy Clinic. Her Selecting Writings privdes a comprehensive introduction to her work.

Anna Freud is one of the pioneers of child psychoanalysis and of the psychoanalytic study of normal child development. Firmly grounded in Freud's second topology of id, ego and superego, her work is one of the starting points for the development of ego-psychology. Her main contribution to psychoanalytic theory is her description of the defense mechanisms used by the ego in its attempt to avoid anxiety, danger and unpleasure.

According to Anna Freud, the superego originates in the mechanism of identification with the aggressor, as the child mimics and then identifies with the aggressive criticisms of its parents in such a way as to allow the ego to perceive its own faults.

Anna Freud's theory of child development is based uppon the view that there is a normal sequence of libidinal phases (oral, anal and genital) and that a child who is going to be a harmonious personality should, at each stage of libidinal development, reach a corresponding stage of emotional maturity, phsical independence, companionship and creative play.

In 1943-4, the respective supporters of Anna Freud and Melanie Klein became embroiled in the so-called 'Controversial Discussions' which almost split the British Psychoanalytic Association and let to its recognition of three coexisting groups (Freudians, Kleinians and 'Independents'). The discussions focused on differences over play therapy, the chronology of the onset of the Oedipus complex and of the superego formation, and the role of fantasy.

The Vienna years

Anna did not have a very close bond with her mother and had difficulties getting along with her siblings, specifically with her sister Sophie Freud. Sophie, who was the prettiest child, represented a threat in the struggle for the affection of their father. Apart from this rivalry between the two sisters, Anna had some other difficulties growing up. Out of correspondence between father and daughter, it can be concluded today that Anna suffered from a depression which caused eating disorders. The relationship between Anna and her father was different from the rest of her family, they were very close. She was a lively child with a reputation for mischief. Freud wrote to his friend Wilhelm Fliess in 1899: "Anna has become downright beautiful through naughtiness... ", Sigmund was very proud of his youngest daughter.

Anna began school in 1901, later on Anna would say that she didn’t learn much in school but all the more from her father and his guests at home. This way she picked up languages as Hebrew, German, English, French and Italian. At the age of 15, she started reading her father’s work. At a young age she started to tell her father her dreams and he would publish them in his book Interpretation of Dreams. Anna finished her education at the Cottage Lyceum in Vienna in 1912. Suffering from a depression, she was very insecure about what to do in the future. Subsequently, she went to Italy to stay with her grandmother.

In 1914, she started teaching at her old school, the Cottage Lyceum. In 1918 her father started psychoanalysis on her and she became seriously involved with this new profession. Her analysis was completed in 1922 and thereupon she presented the paper "Beating Fantasies and daydreams" to the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society, subsequently becoming a member. In 1923 she began her own psychoanalytical practice with children and two years later she was teaching at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Training Institute on the technique of child analysis. From 1927 until 1934 she was the General Secretary of the International Psychoanalytical Association while she continued child analysis and seminars and conferences on the subject. In 1935 Anna became director of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Training Institute and in the following year she published her influential study of the "ways and means by which the ego wards off displeasure and anxiety", The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence. It became a founding work of ego psychology and established Anna’s reputation as a pioneering theoretician.

1938 and later : Anna in London

In 1938 the Freuds had to flee from Austria as a consequence of the Nazis' continuous harassment of Jews in Vienna. Her father's health, who was severely infected with jaw cancer, was getting bad and she had to organize the family's emigration to London. Here she continued her work and took care of her father, who finally died in the autumn of 1939. When Anna arrived in London, a conflict emerged between her and Melanie Klein regarding developmental theories of children. This conflict threatened to split the British Psycho-analytical Society, but ended in training courses given from two different points of view.

The war gave Anna opportunity to observe the impact of deprivation of parental care on children. She set up a centre for young war victims, called "The Hampstead War Nursery". Here the children got foster care although mothers were encouraged to visit as often as possible. The underlying idea was to give children the opportunity to form attachments by providing continuity of relationships. This was continued after the war at the Bulldogs Bank home, which was an orphanage, ran by colleagues of Anna and was taking care of children who survive concentration camps. Based on these observations Anna published a series of studies with her lifelong friend, Dorothy Burlingham on the impact of stress on children and the ability to find substitute affections among peers when parents cannot give them.

In 1947 Anna Freud and Kate Friedlaender established the Hampstead Child Therapy Courses. Five years later, a children's clinic was added. Here they worked with Anna's theory of the developmental lines. Furthermore Anna started lecturing on child psychology. Until then Child analysis had remained a quite uncharted territory. Siegfried Bernfeld and August Aichorn, who both had practical experience of dealing with children, mentored her in this.

From the 1950s until the end of her life Anna Freud travelled regularly to the United States to lecture, to teach and to visit friends. During the 1970s she was concerned with the problems of emotionally deprived and socially disadvantaged children, and she studied deviations and delays in development. At Yale Law School she taught seminars on crime and the family: this led to a transatlantic collaboration with Joseph Goldstein and Albert Solnit on children and the law, published as Beyond the Best Interests of the Child(1973).

Anna Freud died in October 9, 1982. One year after her death a publication of her collected works appeared. She was mentioned as "a passionate and inspirational teacher" and the Hampstead Clinic was renamed the Anna Freud Centre. Furthermore her home in London for forty years was in 1986, as she had wished, transformed into the Freud Museum, dedicated to her father and the psychoanalytical society.

Major contributions to psychoanalysis

Anna Freud moved away from the classical position of her father, who was concentrating on the unconscious Id (a perspective she found to be restrictive) and instead emphasized the importance of the ego, the constant struggle and conflict it is experiencing by the need to answer contradicting wishes, desires, values and demands of reality. By this, she established the importance of the ego functions and the concept of defense mechanisms. Focusing on research, observation and treatment of children, Freud established a group of prominent child developmental analysts (which included Eric Erikson, Edith Jacobson and Margaret Mahler) who noticed that children's symptoms were ultimately analogue to personality disorders among adults and thus often related to developmental stages. At that time, these ideas were revolutionary and Anna provided us with a comprehensive developmental theory and the concept of developmental lines, which combined her father's important drive model with more recent object relations theories of development, which emphasize the importance of parents in child development processes.

As such, the formation of the fields of child psychoanalysis and child developmental psychology can be attributed to Anna Freud. Anna Freud furthermore developed different techniques of assessment and treatment of children disorders, thereby contributing to our understanding of anxiety and depression as significant problems among children.

ANNA FREUD (142-3)

Freud, Anna 5, 6, 131, 242, 278 Ecrits